Wednesday, September 17, 2008
|7:00 p.m.||The Divine Comedy|
Manoel de Oliveira (Portugal, 1991)
(A divina comedia). A mental asylum proves the fitting setting for Oliveira’s take on the whole of Western civilization. Here Raskolnikov, Jesus Christ, Nietzsche, and Adam and Eve (or at least the madmen who believe themselves such characters) wander the idyllic grounds, debating amongst themselves and to the camera the frameworks of culture, art, philosophy, and most of all, sin. “Adam and Eve” run about nude in the garden, until “Eve” decides she’d rather be St. Theresa; meanwhile, a devout “prophet” holds a book he claims is the Fifth Gospel, even though its pages are completely blank. Leave it to Oliveira to create a world where figures from the Bible and Dostoevsky are finally allowed to square off, viewpoint-to-viewpoint; there’s no dramatic plot per se, only the eternal conflict of ideas. The actors (including Maria de Medeiros of Pulp Fiction) are not characters, but philosophical concepts, their dialogues and Oliveira’s skillful direction turning The Divine Comedy into an experience of cinema—and philosophy—unlike any other.
• Written by Oliveira. Photographed by Ivan Kozelka. With Maria de Medeiros, Miguel Guilherme, Luís Miguel Cintra, Mário Viegas. (141 mins, In Portuguese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Lusomundo)